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3 Resolutions All Technical Documentation Departments Should Adopt

Contiem | January 20, 2020

Happy New Year!

Congratulations, you made it through another year of anticipatory project kick-offs, exciting new products and features, stressful deadlines, late-night reviews, around-the-clock verification, and product launch celebrations!

If you are like many device and equipment manufacturers, these regular cycles of anticipation, excitement, stress, exhaustion, and celebration can be physically and emotionally draining. Time off over the Christmas and New Year holidays can be a nice break, but what’s preventing the exhaustive rollercoaster from gaining speed and repeating in the New Year?

Many manufacturers turn to Contiem in the middle of a product launch cycle when it becomes apparent that additional technical writing help is required to meet deadlines. At this point, most of the team is in panic mode, and implementing best practices is often sidelined until the calm after the storm.

Since we believe in starting the year off right, here are three New Year resolutions you can implement now, during the calm, to reduce stress throughout the year:

New Year Resolutions to Reduce Technical Documentation Stress

1. Start every project with a Documentation Plan

Undefined expectations lead to stress, frustration, and rework. Technical writers are often pressed to get all the latest product functionality and software updates into various publications – user guides, service manuals, quick start guides, troubleshooting guides, reference guides, and customer training – and get them all reviewed and approved before product launch. Rework can be a disaster since time is limited and changes impact many documents and various parts of each document.

Define objectives, responsibilities, strategies, and schedule and document them in a Documentation Plan that serves as a “contract” between the technical documentation department and the rest of the product launch team.

2. Assign an editor to your team

It is common for small technical documentation departments to send documents to a peer writer for an editorial review. However, when the workload increases, a peer writer may not be available. When last-minute review comments are provided and deadlines start closing in, conducting your own edit after each iteration is time-consuming and risky. Plan ahead to have an on-demand editor available.

3. Plan workload realistically

Stress can increase when a technical writer’s workload is greater than the available time. Stress can also increase when a task takes longer than the “given” amount of time and another stakeholder is awaiting the completed task or a manager is questioning the time for completion. Instead of planning workload by necessity – the “everything must get done no matter what it takes” method or planning workload ad-hoc around which technical writers have availability, plan workload based on the time tasks take to complete. Estimate the amount of time required for each step of the technical documentation process, including reviews and subject matter expert availability, and put together a calendar schedule.